One of the worries that plagues parents and friends of youth is that their teen is using drugs or alcohol, or that they might have a substance addiction. If you worry about this, but are unsure, here are some signs to look for.
1. Mood Swings:
While teenagers are prone to going through some mood swings due to the nature of their changing world. But if your teen’s moods have become violent, or aggressive, or even more flighty than other teens that you encounter (as in happy one minute, and within minutes after that depressed, angry, or sad), then this could be a sign of substance abuse on the part of your teen and should be investigated.
2. Social Circles:
As with all things in your child’s life, be involved. If your youth has suddenly developed a new ring of friends that is different from the ones he or she previously was involved with, get to know these new friends. Did your child suddenly abandon the old friends that they had before? What kind of friends are these new kids that they hang out with? Are they older? Do you suspect them, or are there any reasons to believe that they are using drugs or alcohol? Look into the new friends that your child is involved with and investigate if you think there is something there to be worried about. Our experiences show that this could be a sign of substance abuse with youth.
3. School Performance:
If your child’s grades suddenly plummet, or change radically from doing well to suddenly missing classes consistently, back talking and disrespecting teachers and authority figures, and not doing homework at all, then it is likely that alcohol or other substances could be the source of the problem. With all things, remember to be involved with your child’s life, in our studies we’ve seen that this can help prevent a myriad of problems that a youth might face. If you think your child is abusing a substance, investigate, and then confront your child about it.
4. Physical Health:
Youth are usually in the process of growth spurts and other physical changes that generally include a healthy appetite, but if your child is suddenly without an appetite, or is suffering from physical symptoms usually associated with substance abuse such as gastritis or ulcers, then it is possible that your youth may have a problem. Also, check in on their sleeping patterns, as this may be another indication if their sleep cycle has completely changed in some radical way (i.e. staying up all night, or sleeping in later than is normal and missing class).
Look for actual signs of the abuse. Depending on the situation, you might try looking through their room to see if you can find containers of alcohol or other substances. If you drink, or keep alcohol in your house, have you noticed that you are missing drinks from time to time? Have you found that your child is trying to smoke openly? Can you smell alcohol or smoke on their breath or clothes? These can all be signs of substance abuse for your child.
If your child is acting out against authority figures, or has had problems with the law, or even if he is against anti-drug or –alcohol programs, then you might have a problem on your hands. Check into the reasons behind the disturbances or negative attitude and don’t be afraid to confront your child openly about the subject of substance abuse.
Has your child suddenly developed a new sense of style that is somewhat more outlandish? Are they ignoring or paying less attention to their personal hygiene? If so, these signs could be pointing towards a substance abuse. While children do change their sense of style as they grow, they usually do it to fit in, check in to what group your child’s sense of style is trying to fit in with. This could be linked back to what group of friends they are currently involved with. Hygiene is generally something that is very important to most teenagers, and if yours is ignoring it, it may be a sign of depression coupled or independent of substance abuse.
8. Overt Signals:
Often times when a child is involved with substance abuse, there will be rumors that circulate with them. While you do need to be careful about gossip, it is a good idea to know what is being said about your child. It is also likely that other parents will approach you to let you know what they have noticed about your child. Consider the source of the information, and if it concerns you enough then talk to your child about what you’ve heard. These are possible signs of substance abuse from what our experiences have shown us. As with all things, being involved with your child’s life will be the greatest help you can be. A lot of these indications can simply be your child’s emotional growing pains, but if you notice a string of incidents in this list, then you might want to consider further investigation. If you decide that you need additional help or counseling, then help is available. Remember that each youth is different, and the approach to helping your child may be different from another’s solution, you are the closest to your youth and are the best person to determine how best to approach the problem.
Take time to fill out our parent assessment form and we will be more than happy to walk you through a few ideas and give you some resources to help guide you down this overwhelming experienc